Anyone Receiving Unauthorized Cable Service Will be Given an Opportunity to Turn Themselves in to Avoid Prosecution with No Questions Asked. House-by-House Audit of Cable Systems Will Identify Individuals Who are Receiving Unauthorized Service and Charges Will be Filed
BALTIMORE, Oct. 28 /PRNewswire/—Comcast and local prosecutors across Maryland and the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. area today announced they will implement a cable amnesty program from November 1 to November 14, 2005.
Anyone who is receiving unauthorized cable service in the jurisdictions listed below will be able to turn themselves in and become authorized, paying customers with no questions asked by calling 1-888-COMCAST or by logging onto http://www.cabletheft.com. In 2003, the last time Comcast executed this campaign, the company received more than 8,000 calls and thousands of leads through http://www.cabletheft.com.
Comcast and local prosecutors in the following areas are conducting the cable amnesty program:
—Anne Arundel County
—Ocean City, Md.
—Prince George's County
—Prince William County, Va.
As part of the amnesty program, residents currently receiving unauthorized cable services may choose to become paying customers over the phone or have the unauthorized service disconnected without facing legal action. In addition, residents receiving cable television through unauthorized cable boxes will have the opportunity to turn in their boxes to Comcast in exchange for new, legal boxes.
Many residents may not realize they are receiving cable service illegally. Comcast's amnesty program will also educate communities about "active" and "passive" cable theft. "Active" cable theft occurs when people knowingly and willfully make illegal connections to the cable system or tamper with equipment so they receive cable service without paying for it. "Passive" theft occurs when an individual moves into a new residence where cable is already installed and fails to notify Comcast that the billing should be transferred to the new occupant.
Following the amnesty program, Comcast officials will complete a house-by- house electronic audit of its cable systems to identify cable thieves. As these homes and businesses continue to be identified, the information will be turned over to the appropriate authorities for possible prosecution, with possible fines and jail time if convicted.
Cable theft across Maryland and Washington, D.C. costs local governments and municipalities millions of dollars in lost revenue each year. Additionally, illegal cable hookups create signal leakage that can disrupt the cable signal in their communities so that law-abiding, paying customers experience decreased picture quality on their televisions.
According to the National Cable Television Association (NCTA), the cable industry lost nearly $4.76 billion during 2004 in unrealized revenue because of theft. That number represents more than eight percent of the $57.6 billion industry gross revenue.
Any persons currently facing cable theft charges from local authorities are not eligible for the amnesty program. Those persons currently under investigation by Comcast for suspected cable theft are eligible for the amnesty program.